By Mark Robinson IMSA Wire Service
The message was brief, but its impact is monumental: Acura Motorsports will continue competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s top category with an LMDh car in 2023 and beyond.
The manufacturer has been an integral partner in the WeatherTech Championship in recent seasons, winning the driver, team and manufacturer titles the last two years in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class. Along with that came the GT Daytona (GTD) driver and team championships in 2019, followed by a GTD sweep of driver, team and manufacturer crowns last year.
The statement issued from Acura Motorsports in Torrance, California, on Tuesday morning read:“Acura Motorsports today confirmed it will continue to compete in the top category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 under the new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) format.”
In doing so, Acura becomes the third global manufacturer to announce its intent to develop an LMDh race car. Late in 2020, both Audi and Porsche AG revealed their intent to do the same.
Acura’s news release specifically mentions WeatherTech Championship participation while the German marques named possibilities in both the WeatherTech Championship – which includes iconic endurance races like the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans – and the FIA World Endurance Championship, home to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“All of us at IMSA are so excited about the response to the concept of LMDh and global convergence,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “Given the commitments already announced, and the number of auto manufacturers that continue to study LMDh as a marketing and technology platform, there is a tremendous amount of momentum for the future of our sport. Our loyal fans worldwide are in for a real treat.
“Acura has an outstanding record of success in prototype racing, which I experienced as a race fan from a young age and as a competitor in recent years. On behalf of IMSA, I am proud to continue working with Acura as we work collectively to continue building our sport.”
Acura has been a competitor in sports car racing since the luxury and performance division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., debuted in 1986. The brand has participated in WeatherTech Championship GTD competition since 2017, winning seven races. Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian delivered those victories, along with the 2019 driver and team titles behind drivers Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman, along with driver, team and manufacturer honors last year with Farnbacher and Matt McMurry.
Acura opened its DPi program in 2018 and demonstrated its prowess and technical savvy almost immediately. Running a two-car operation with Acura Team Penske, it captured nine race wins over the past three seasons, the 2019 driver, team and manufacturer championships with drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, and the 2020 crowns with drivers Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor.
This year, the Acura DPi program is split among two teams with Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing each fielding one Acura ARX-05. The faces behind the wheel are familiar, though. Cameron is a full-time driver in the No. 60 MSR Acura and Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 WTR Acura. Castroneves and Montoya are serving in endurance-race roles, starting with this week’s Rolex 24.
Though no announcement for Acura LMDh team affiliations have been made, MSR co-owner Michael Shank was delighted to hear the news of the program.
“It’s very exciting news for us as a team,” Shank said. “We know it’s going to be at a very high level. Been with them for five years now and their commitment is second to none. I look forward to seeing what their package looks like.”
The LMDh concept was announced in January 2020 at Daytona International Speedway as a shared platform between IMSA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). The LMDh is based on a cost-capped car and will have the same spine (the complete car without bodywork, engine or hybrid system) as the next generation of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). The LMDh chassis will be built by one of the approved constructors, Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA, with each competing automobile manufacturer free to develop its own branded engine and stylized bodywork.
Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac will work in concert to provide the spec hybrid powertrain system for all LMDh cars. Between the manufacturer’s internal combustion engine and the hybrid powertrain, each LMDh car will have a combined power output of more than 670 horsepower (500 kilowatts).